Five Creative Steps for Overcoming Writer’s Block

Many authors experience writer’s block at times. Writer’s block attracts a plethora of helpful and not-so-helpful solutions, among them suggestions to take a break from writing, go for a walk, drink coffee…the list goes on. These solutions apply to solving issues with boredom or procrastination – which is fine if one of these happens to be the underlying cause of the block. We offer five creative steps for overcoming writer’s block.

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Writer’s block: don’t throw it away yet

We suggest that writer’s block is an issue with creativity. Whether the writer is struggling to make a story work, or is unable to come up with a new idea, the underlying problem is that the writer’s creativity is overworked and needs time off.

We’ve come up with five creative steps for overcoming writer’s block.

Enjoy the following unusual and inventive methods to kick-start your creativity back into gear.

Step 1 – A change of scenery

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Go somewhere high, go somewhere new

Moving out of your normal workspace is a great start, but walking around the same boring park you know like the back of your hand won’t do you any good. (You’ll know a change of scene is needed when you start using clichés like ‘the back of your hand’…) Make sure your displacement is worth the effort.

Try to get to the highest point that you can reach. Take a notebook and pen for scribbling down the ideas that flow. Can you access the roof of your building? Are there any hills or natural features around that you can safely climb? Think about where the best view in your neighbourhood is and go there. To save yourself some legwork, challenge your friends on Facebook to come up with the best local view – you might receive some interesting responses!

Step 2 – Distract yourself

Once you have given your eyes something new to experience, give your other senses the same treatment. Go to the busiest, loudest, most inappropriate public place to write that you can think of, and do not leave until you’ve finished at least 500 words. Francine Prose, a contemporary American author, is most productive when she finds her environment boring. If you are the same, then go somewhere that you find deadly dull and boring, not somewhere stimulating. Instead of working on your current project, which you need a break from, pick a random person and invent their life story. Keep safe. In your car on the motorway might not be the safest place.

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Distract yourself safely

Step 3 – Live a Day in Your Character’s Skin

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Live a day in your character’s skin

Having broken out of old patterns, it’s time to return to the work you’re stuck on. Don’t start writing again just yet. First, try experiencing your story in a more practical sense. Pick a character, major or minor, and go about your daily routine with the idea of them in your mind. Imagine how they would behave if they were experiencing your everyday reality.

When you speak, think about what they would say and how they would say it. Pay attention to the choices you make – the clothing you wear, the music you listen to, the meals you eat –and think about what they would choose in your place. If they were narrating your day, what perspective would they offer? Putting a character inside your mind is a great way to get yourself inside theirs.

Step 4 – Borrow Someone Else’s Story

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Borrow someone else’s story – temporarily

No, we’re not suggesting that you plagiarise! This is a private writing exercise for evaluating your understanding of your characters and their world. Obviously, you shouldn’t publish the results.

If you are struggling with a character, take them out of their comfort zone by moving them into another author’s world. Altered circumstances and rules will make your character behave differently. To get them through their altered circumstances in a way that is true to them and to their new world, you will need to contemplate fresh aspects of their personality.

This works best if the world you choose is from a completely different genre from the one you are currently writing. Bear in mind that the focus isn’t on the other author’s work, but on how your creations react to it. How would the hero of your romance novel handle being named captain of the Starship Enterprise? What if tomorrow your action heroine woke up in Mr Darcy’s guest bedroom? What would be different if your entire story took place in the world of Disney?

If you don’t want to focus too strongly on a single character, or you prefer to stay within the world you’ve created, try taking a single element out of another author’s work and sticking it right in the middle of yours. What would happen if a gateway to Narnia opened up in your character’s workplace? What if Batman roamed the character’s neighbourhood every night?

Step 5 – Destroy Your Story

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Destroy your story

 

…a little. It’s just a writing exercise. Take a step back from trying to find the perfect words and instead deliberately find the wrong ones. Stephen King has some suggestions about knowing when not to write. Open up a blank Word document and play with your story the way children play with toys; think of it as a holiday for your imagination.

Here are some ideas you might like to try:

  • The world will end in ten minutes. Be as concise and as absurd as you like, and resolve every plot point in your character’s final few moments
  • One of your characters is now a talking animal. This does not change their role in the story
  • Every character switches gender for one day
  • Every character gets exactly what they most want in life, but only for one hour
  • Arrange your characters’ names alphabetically, and then split them into pairs. Each pair is now soul mates
  • Your protagonist now has an imaginary friend, either an evil version of an existing character or a mythological creature of your choosing.

Have fun with your creations.

 

Checklist: five creative steps for overcoming writer’s block:

Step 1 – Change of Scenery

Find somewhere high in your neighbourhood

Go and check out the view

Take a break (but keep a notebook handy for scribbling down ideas)

Step 2 – Distract Yourself

Find the worst public place to write in

Pick a person

Write their life story

Don’t leave until you’re finished

Step 3 – Live a Day in your Character’s Skin

Pick a character and keep them in your mind

Go about your day

Try to experience everything from your character’s perspective

Step 4 – Borrow someone else’s story for a day

Pick your favourite book, movie or TV show

Choose one of your characters and move them into that world

Write about what happens, ensuring they stay in character

OR

Pick an interesting idea from your favourite book, movie or TV show

Introduce the idea into your story

Write about what happens, making sure you stay true to your own story

Step 5 – Destroy your story

Let loose your imagination. Go crazy. Write whatever you want.

(This post is a collaboration between editors4you.com and Rhiannon Raphael, a Bond University student currently undertaking an internship with editors4you.com)

Once you have overcome your writer’s block, email your manuscript to us for a MANUSCRIPT APPRAISAL. Our assessment will give you a clear idea of the strengths of your manuscript, as well as suggested areas for improvement – in the kindest, most productive way. To sign up for a MINI APPRAISAL on up to 2,000 words of your MANUSCRIPT for a nominal fee of $50 plus GST, email us now. You will receive this critique within 5 business days.